SEMA 2014 marked my dad and I’s first pilgrimage across the US to the land of gambling, entertainment, and all things automotive. Attending the show has been on our bucket list for years, and since this year’s show coincided with my 30th birthday, it was the right time to make the trip from Louisville, Kentucky to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Being the type of hot rodders that live and breathe everything automotive and high performance, we were obviously very aware of what awaited us, namely an oasis of every carbon fibre, billet alloy, or digital widget you could ever dream of. However, we underestimated just how grand this show really is. Any type of automotive component was represented at the show in excess. For example, there is a single wing of the convention centre dedicated to nothing but tyres and wheels. Suppliers from around the world – the vast majority we were not even familiar with – filled the isles to showcase their latest tyre and wheel offerings.
Upon our arrival at the show we were greeted by the sound of a full-race GM LS engine singing an 8,000rpm symphony between the frame rails of a Baja desert truck drifting across the parking lot, boiling the rear tyres and fogging the air with smoke. We knew we were in for a treat!
Since we skew primarily toward the early American muscle car and traditional hot rod scene, we were pleasantly surprised to find a nice balance of these style vehicles on display:
Danny Thompson’s Challenger II land speed streamliner
If you are not familiar with Danny Thompson and his quest to set the record for the world’s fastest wheel driven automobile do yourself a favour and check out thompsonlsr and take a look at the photo and video galleries available that tell the story of this machine. Danny’s father, the famous Mickey Thompson, built the streamliner in 1968 and Danny Thompson drove the car to a 419mph (674kph) run at the Bonneville Salt Flats earlier this year before unfavourable weather cut the race short.
General Motors Future Liner restored by Kindig It Designs
The GM Futureliner was an attempt by General Motors to bring elements of the World’s Fair to small towns in rural America in the 1950’s. The bus was said to offer a glimpse of the future of transportation and four of these vehicles were produced to tour the United States. The team at Kindig It Designs recently completed the restoration on this bus that was displayed in front of ‘Hot Rod Alley’ at the SEMA show. The restoration on this vehicle was immaculate – check out the dual wheels on all four corners!
‘Whiskey Runner’ 1933 Ford Coupe owned by Billy Gibbons of the rock band ZZ Top
Although still under construction by the world famous So-Cal Speed Shop, this car drew a large crowd all weekend. Unique features on this car include a three-dimensional stripe down the side of the car and a single, moveable headlight mounted in the hood. Look for this car to be debuted in its completed form at next year’s SEMA.
While there was a strong showing of early hot rods and muscle cars at the show, there were hundreds of modern hot rods and other special-interest vehicles:
Hurst Performance Chevrolet Camaro
The carbon fibre injector hat piercing through the hood on this car caught our interest. This hot rod featured a combination of drag race-inspired supercharging and modern air ride suspension so that it could lay completely flat on the ground even while sporting huge rear tires! We loved the satin black finish coupled with the carbon fibre hood. We didn’t have the opportunity to hear this car run, but it did leave us wondering if it runs as good as it looks.
Jeep off-road vehicles
I’ll freely admit that I do not know the slightest thing about off-roading, but this Jeep (I think it’s a Jeep) perfectly fits the definition of ‘pissed-off’. The stance on this truck was amazing; the way the builders mounted the fenders high up on the body made the top look shorted giving the truck a ‘chopped top’ effect.
Hot Wheels Twin Mill
Proving that the variety at SEMA is endless, Hot Wheels had a couple of their full-size cars on display all week including the famous ‘Twin Mill.’ The fit and finish on this car was immaculate, even though it is merely a promotional vehicle it would be a strong competitor at any car show. And really, how can you not like a car that has two supercharged engines?
Desert race trucks
The entire East side of the convention centre parking lot was devoted to nothing but trucks (both off-road and street cruisers) and the line-up of a dozen or so trophy trucks really piqued our interest. I’ve been following several top builders of these types of vehicles for some time on Instagram because the fabrication work that goes into one of these trucks is phenomenal. This is the first time we have had the opportunity to look over one of these trucks in person and they are engineering/fabrication masterpieces. If you can imagine the difficulty of building a car that will run wide-open through the desert without over-heating or experiencing a mechanical failure you can truly appreciate what goes into campaigning one of these trucks.
Ken Block’s latest gymkhana – the Hoonicorn_RTR – was on-hand in the Ford Motor Company booth. The car sports a full tube chassis and carbon fibre body. Beneath the aggressive hood scoop and injector stacks sticking through the hood sits a 410 cubic inch Roush-Yates prepared engine producing 845hp, plenty enough to annihilate the tyres.
As you can tell, the opportunity to see the cars of SEMA makes attending the show worthwhile in itself. However, strolling the exhibition halls provides a glimpse into the trends for the coming year. The biggest trend that we noticed gaining momentum is vehicle wrapping. Vinyl wrapping has been a growing trend for years, but it was virtually exploding at this year’s show. Large format printers have made it possible for anyone to wrap their car with custom, digitally designed artwork at affordable prices. Alternatively, there are a myriad of solid colour wraps on the market now that require no printing. From brushed metal finishes to reflective chrome, you can transform your vehicle to look anyway you choose without repainting it.
Full size trucks are hot! Whether it is a lifted six-door dually or a slammed short bed C10, trucks are leading the market right now. This trend is likely to continue for a long time to come because it covers such a large slice of the market. Trucks ranging in year from the early 1960s to current are being modified in every way possible. This provides the first-time enthusiast with an easy way to enter the custom vehicle market because they are still able to use a customized truck for some of the day-to-day needs.
Go ahead and make your plans to attend SEMA 2015 now. You won’t regret it.
*Our thanks to RidgeParkSpeed
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